21 May 2005

Irelandclick.com

Suicide: Nine dead in three months

As we reveal that nine people have taken their own lives in the past three months in North Belfast the mother of one of those victims asks why nothing is being done to curb the epidemic.

The heartbroken mother of a young man who took his own life this week has made an emotional plea to the British Government to do more to address the anguish of suicide in the North of Ireland.
Theresa McCluskey’s son Declan took his own life on Wednesday of this week. The family home in Greenhill Grove has been flooded with people paying their respects to the 32-year-old who was well known and liked in the community.
Declan worked for St Vincent de Paul and was the Secretary of the Ligoniel Working Men’s Club for many years.
It is not the first time that the McCluskey family have suffered such tragedy – Declan’s elder brother Frank took his own life in June 1996.
And his father, Francis McCluskey, was murdered by the UDA in August 1982 as he walked to work.
At that time his wife Theresa was pregnant with the couple’s ninth child, who was born the following January and was called Anne Francine.
This week as the family struggled to come to terms with their loss and prepare to bury Declan, Theresa said “there isn’t enough being done” to tackle suicide in North Belfast.
In the last three months nine people have taken their lives in the north of the city according to the PIPs project’s estimates. The figure stands at seven in West Belfast. To date a transparent strategy at government level to tackle suicide does not exist here.
“There is not enough being done. No way. Definitely not in districts like here and Ardoyne and Oldpark where it seems to be happening all the time,” Theresa McCluskey said.
“I know that it has happened before. With Frank I never thought it would happen, and it did. But I never thought it would happen again. Never. Declan was such a bubbly character. Everyone liked him. He would always listen to anyone’s problems and help out if he could. He was that type of person.”
Theresa’s sister, Anne Maguire, there wasn’t enough interest being shown in young people.
“We need to encourage young people to talk about their feelings and get projects started which will get them involved,” she said.
“More needs to be done in these areas, locally and it needs done now. It’s happening to families everywhere.”
In the North of Ireland, for nearly two years now, the PIPs project and others have been encouraging the development of a suicide prevention strategy with dedicated resources at least on a par with other countries like Scotland.
Jo Murphy of the PIPs project said there is a reluctance to fully embrace the need to provide adequate resources.
“Mental health is under funded and suicide prevention is seen as only a small part of that. £12million was recently given to a regional strategy in Scotland towards suicide prevention,” she said.
“There has been a 27 per cent increase in the North in the past ten years – that’s not good enough. We need equality. The current mental health budget is under-funded to the tune of £2m in North and West Belfast and that needs redressed urgently.”
A task group set up by the North and West Belfast Health and Social Services Trust to look at suicide meets for the first time in the Everton Complex on Monday.
“This is about different agencies coming together to look at the issue,” Jo Murphy said.
“Suicide is an ongoing crisis which is affecting families. This taskforce can’t be a talking shop, it has to work towards developing a regional strategy in the North of Ireland and make it work on the ground.”
A spokesperson for the N&WBHSST said they were unable to comment on the meeting at this early stage.
North Belfast Sinn Féin MLA Kathy Stanton, whose party has been pressing for a community-based suicide prevention strategy, said the issue was a priority in the six counties.
“The British minister with responsibility for health conceded that mental health services in North and West Belfast are under-funded by more than £2million.
“However, the Department of Health has yet to come up with the money to fill this gap in community support,” she said.
“If suicide is a national disaster in Ireland, we urgently need a national disaster plan. That must be a priority.
“The Health Departments in Belfast and Dublin must begin to realise that the public want urgent, strategic action on suicide prevention.”
A spokesperson for the Department of Health said considerable work was ongoing and that a new subgroup to look specifically at suicide had been set up.

Journalist:: Andrea McKernon

Guardian

**See also AFGHANISTAN: US soldiers beat prisoners to death

See also Chained, tortured and left to die in cell

US abuse of Afghan prisoners 'widespread'

Sarah Left and agencies
Friday May 20, 2005

US soldiers carried out widespread abuse of detainees at the US-run Bagram prison camp in Afghanistan, according to a confidential US army report revealed today in the New York Times.

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'Bagram near Kabul serves as the main US base in Afghanistan' - See article from Aljazeera.Net

Seven soldiers have been charged in connection with abuse at Bagram, where the paper reports that harsh treatment by some interrogators was routine, prisoners were shackled in painful fixed positions, and guards could strike shackled detainees with virtual impunity.

The army document highlights the deaths in detention of Dilawar, a 22-year-old taxi driver who most interrogators had believed to be innocent, and another inmate, Habibullah. The two men died within six days of each other in December 2002.

The New York Times carries a graphic account of Dilawar's torture and death. His legs were beaten so badly that he could not bend them to kneel, and he was chained for days by his wrists to the roof of his cell. When he asked for a drink of water during his final interrogation, one US interrogator punched a hole in a water bottle, handed it to Dilawar and tormented him as the water poured away before he could drink, according to an interpreter present at the time.

After the interrogation, guards chained Dilawar again to the roof of his cell, where he was found dead by a doctor several hours later, the paper reported.

The details of prisoner abuse at Bagram follow the notorious photographs of torture at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq and reports that the US has routinely handed some terrorism suspects over to third countries with far harsher reputations for torture, a practice known as 'renditions'.

The New York Times said it had obtained the army report from someone involved in the investigation who was critical of the methods used at Bagram and the military's response to the deaths. The paper reported that the investigation revealed young, poorly trained soldiers in repeated incidents of abuse.

"What we have learned though the course of all these investigations is that there were people who clearly violated anyone's standard for humane treatment. We're finding some cases that were not close calls," the Pentagon's spokesman, Larry Di Rita, told the paper.

In sworn statements to army investigators, soldiers described mistreatment ranging from a female interrogator stepping on a detainee's neck and kicking another in the genitals to a shackled prisoner being made to kiss the boots of interrogators as he rolled back and forth on the floor of a cell, according to the newspaper.

Another prisoner was made to pick plastic bottle caps out of a drum filled with a mixture of excrement and water to soften him up for interrogation, the report said.

The New York Times said that in October the army's criminal investigation command concluded that there was probable cause to charge 27 officers and enlisted personnel with criminal offences in Dilawar's case, while fifteen of the same soldiers were also cited for probable criminal responsibility in Habibullah's case. No one has been convicted in connection with either death.

Pentagon spokesman Lieutenant Colonel John Skinner said the army document detailed by the New York Times demonstrated how seriously the US military considered allegations of abuse.

"Any incident is unacceptable, and when there are allegations we investigate them," he said, adding that 28 people had been implicated in the report and seven charged. "The wheels of justice are turning, as they should be."

Lt Col Skinner said that today there were more than 10 major lines of inquiry looking into all aspects of detention, alongside increased oversight, improved training and improved facilities. Notwithstanding those improvements, the policy from the beginning had been the humane treatment of detainees, he added.

"99.99% of our military members are upholding our standards every single day in a difficult and dangerous situation," he said. Where they don't, he added, there will be consequences.


BBC

'Piano Man' is given instrument

Friday, 20 May, 2005, 17:49 GMT 18:49 UK


The unidentified man was found in a soaking wet suit

The so-called "Piano Man" has had an upright piano installed in his room at the secure mental health unit where he is being held, his carers have said.

Doctors are considering using music and art therapy to try to communicate with the mystery man who has not yet spoken.

More than 1,000 people from across the world have contacted a special helpline and several leads to his identity are being investigated.

The man, in his 20s or early 30s, was found in Sheerness, Kent, on 7 April.

Condition unchanged

The West Kent NHS Trust said on Friday that it may still be "some time" before it can establish who the man is.

A spokesman said: "We can now confirm that Mr X has a piano in his room and his clinical team are starting to explore both music and art therapies."

But he added that the man has yet to begin playing the instrument.

He added: "There has been no change in his condition.

"The Trust continues to work with the police to review and investigate the information that people have supplied."

The "Piano Man" is understood to be in good physical health but it is thought his psychological condition is unlikely to change dramatically in the near future.


The mystery man produced a pencil drawing of a piano

He has not said a word since being picked up by police after being found in a confused and dishevelled state.

Police have discounted claims he is a street musician from France.

When he was first found, staff at the Medway Maritime Hospital gave the man a pen and paper in the hope he would write his name, but he drew a grand piano.

His carers then put him in front of an instrument in the hospital chapel and he stunned them with a virtuoso performance. He has also composed music since being found.

The case has drawn comparisons with the Oscar-winning 1996 film Shine, which tells the story of acclaimed pianist David Helfgott who suffered a nervous breakdown while playing.


Belfast Telegraph

UDA blamed for attacks

By Staff Reporter
newsdesk@belfasttelegraph.co.uk
21 May 2005

THE UDA was being blamed today for sectarian attacks in north Belfast in which a car was destroyed by a petrol bomb and several homes were damaged.

The Peugeot 406 car was parked in Cliftondene Crescent, near to three houses which were attacked with so-called paint bombs at around 11 last night.

Loyalist sources in the north of the city were speculating that the UDA was flexing its muscles following the imprisonment of Denis Cunningham for UFF membership.

At 11.30pm two houses at Abbeydale Park in the Lower Ballysillan area of the city were also damaged by paint bombs, while the windows of a Rover car parked nearby were smashed with stones.

A short time later two houses at Ligoniel Road and a property at Somerdale Park were also attacked with paint bombs.

At around 12.30 this morning a BMW car parked at Hazelwood Park was destroyed when it was set on fire.

Police in North Belfast confirmed that the series of incidents were "sectarian and connected" and believe loyalists were responsible.

North Belfast DUP MLA Nelson McCausland condemned the "totally unprovoked" attacks.

"It is clear that since there were so many attacks on one night that this was an orchestrated campaign," he said.

"People should have the right to live in their homes without fear of attack on them or their property.

"Such attacks are totally unprovoked and wrong. And, as well as hurting the families attacked, they damage the wider community," he said.

Last night's events are not thought to be connected to attacks on a number of cars in the Shore Road area of the city on Friday, police have said.

In another incident earlier yesterday evening, two security alerts on the Cavehill Road were declared hoaxes.

Army Technical Officers were tasked to deal with a suspect device on the gates of a church at around 8.15pm.

A short time later they dealt with a similar device at a bus shelter near Westland fire station.

And in a separate incident that was not thought by police to be sectarian, a car was destroyed early this morning in a petrol bomb attack in Glengormley.

Shortly before 12.40am a Peugeot 106 car parked in Farmley Gardens was completely destroyed when it was petrol bombed.

Police believe that three youths wearing baseball caps, seen in the area at the time of the attacks, may have been involved.

Detectives are appealing for information about the various incidents.

Meanwhile, a loyalist band parade was passing along the Upper Crumlin Road and Ballysillan Road this afternoon.

BreakingNews.ie

Police appeal after sectarian attacks

21/05/2005 - 10:41:35

There were a number of sectarian attacks overnight in north Belfast, police said today.

Police are appealing for information after several cars and houses were damaged in a crime spree which began at about 11pm last night.

Officers said early indications were that the attacks were sectarian and connected.

The PSNI confirmed a Peugeot 406 car was destroyed by a petrol bomb and three houses were damaged by paint bombs at Cliftondene Crescent.

Shortly after that the windows of a Rover car were broken with stones and paint was thrown over two houses at Abbeydale Park in the lower Ballysillan area.

North Belfast police, who are appealing for information on the incidents, confirmed another two houses at Ligoniel Road and a home at Summerdale Park were damaged by paint bombs.

BreakingNews.ie

Sinn Féin rep O'Hare refused US access

21/05/2005 - 08:51:38



Sinn Féin’s Washington representative Rita O’Hare has been refused permission to visit America next week.

She had been planning to accompany Martin McGuinness on a trip he is making to New York and Washington.

Mr McGuiness has been given permission to travel and is expected to meet US government officials while in Washington.

American officials say the decision to refuse Rita O’Hare a visa does not represent a change of policy towards Sinn Féin. She is not eligible for a visa because of her IRA past.

She has a conviction for trying to smuggle explosives into Portlaoise Prison. She has to apply for a waiver each time she wants to visit the United States.

She has travelled to the States regularly in the last six years.

Larkspirit.com

Patsy O'Hara

Died May 21st, 1981

A determined and courageous Derryman

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Twenty-three-year-old Patsy O'Hara from Derry city, was the former leader of the Irish National Liberation Army prisoners in the H-Blocks, and joined IRA Volunteer Raymond McCreesh on hunger strike on March 22nd, three weeks after Bobby Sands and one week after Francis Hughes.

Patsy O'Hara was born on July 11th, 1957 at Bishop Street in Derry city.

His parents owned a small public house and grocery shop above which the family lived. His eldest brother, Sean Seamus, was interned in Long Kesh for almost four years. The second eldest in the family, Tony, was imprisoned in the H-Blocks - throughout Patsy's hunger strike - for five years before being released in August of this year, having served his full five-year sentence with no remission.

The youngest in the O'Hara family is twenty-one-year-old Elizabeth.

Before 'the troubles' destroyed the family life of the O'Haras, and the overwhelming influence of being an oppressed youth concerned about his country drove Patsy to militant republicanism, there is the interesting history of his near antecedents which must have produced delight in Patsy's young heart.

GRANDFATHER

Patsy's maternal grandfather, James McCluskey, joined the British army as a young man and went off to fight in the First World War. He received nine shrapnel wounds at Ypres and was retired on a full pension.

However, on returning to Ireland his patriotism was set alight by Irish resistance and the terror of British rule. He duly threw out his pension book, did not draw any more money and joined the Republican Movement. He transported men and weapons along the Foyle into Derry in the 'twenties.

He inherited a public house and bookmakers, in Foyle Street, and was a great friend of Derry republican Sean Keenan's father, also named Sean.

Mrs. Peggy O'Hara can recall 'old' Sean Keenan being arrested just before the out break of the Second World War. Her father's serious illness resulted in him escaping internment and he died shortly afterwards in 1939.

Mrs. O'Hara's aunt was married to John Mulhern, a Roscommon man, who was in the RIC up until its disbandment in 1921.

"When my father died in 1939 - says Mrs O'Hara, - "John Mulhern, who was living in Bishop Street, and owned a bar and a grocery shop, took us in to look after us. I remember him telling us that he didn't just go and join the RIC, but it was because there were so many in the family and times were hard.

"My father was a known IRA man and my uncle reared me, and I was often slagged about this. Patsy used to hear this as a child, but Patsy was a very, very straight young fellow and he was a wee bit bigoted about my uncle being a policeman.

"But a number of years ago Patsy came in to me after speaking to an old republican from Corrigans in Donegal, and Patsy says to me, 'You've nothing to be ashamed of, your uncle being a policeman, because that man was telling me that even though he was an RIC man, he was very, very helpful to the IRA!"

FAMILY

The trait of courage which Patsy was to show in later years was in him from the start, says Mr. O'Hara. "No matter who got into trouble in the street outside, Patsy was the boy to go out and do all the fighting for him. He was the fighting man about the area and didn't care how big they were. He would tackle them. I even saw him fighting men, and in no way could they stop him. He would keep at them. He was like a wee bull terrier!"

Apparently, up until he was about twelve years of age, Patsy was fat and small, "a wee barrel" says his mother. Then suddenly he shot up to grow to over six foot two inches.

Elizabeth, his sister, recalls Patsy: "He was a mad hatter. When we were young he used to always play tricks on me, mother and father. We used to play a game of cards and whoever lost had to do all the things that everybody told them.

"We all won a card game once and made Patsy crawl up the stairs and 'miaow' like a cat at my mother's bedroom door. She woke up the next day and said, 'am I going mad? I think I heard a cat last night' and we all started to laugh."

The O'Haras' house was open to all their children's friends, and again to scores of the volunteers who descended on Derry from all corners of Ireland when the RUC invaded in 1969. But before that transformation in people's politics came, Mrs. O'Hara still lived for her family alone.

She was especially proud of her eldest son, Sean Seamus who had passed his eleven plus and went to college.

PROTESTS

When Sean was in his early teens he joined the housing action group, around 1967, Mrs. O'Hara's conception of which was Sean helping to get people homes.

"But one day, someone came into me when I was working in the bar, and said, 'Your son is down in the Guildhall marching up and down with a placard!

"I went down and stood and looked and Finbarr O'Doherty was standing at the side and wee fellows were going up and down. I went over to Sean and said, 'Who gave you that? He said, Finbarr!' I took the placard off Sean and went over to Finbarr, put it in his hand, and hit him with my umbrella.'

Mrs. O'Hara laughs when she recalls this incident, as shortly afterwards she was to have her eyes opened.

"After that, I went to protests wherever Sean was, thinking that I could protect him! I remember the October 1968 march because my husband's brother, Sean, had just been buried.

"We went to the peaceful march over at the Waterside station and saw the people being beaten into the ground. That was the first time that I ever saw water cannons, they were like something from outer space.

"We thought we had to watch Sean, but to my astonishment Patsy and Tony had slipped away, and Patsy was astonished and startled by what he saw."

INCIDENT

Later, Patsy was to write about this incident: "The mood of the crowd was one of solidarity. People believed they were right and that a great injustice had been done to them. The crowds came in their thousands from every part of the city and as they moved down Duke Street chanting slogans, 'One man, one vote' and singing 'We shall overcome' I had the feeling that a people united and on the move, were unstoppable."

IRSP

Shortly after his release in April 1975, Patsy joined the ranks of the fledgling Irish Republican Socialist Party, which the 'Sticks', using murder, had attempted to strangle at birth. He was free only about two months when he was stopped at the permanent check-point on the Letterkenny Road whilst driving his father's car from Buncrana in County Donegal.

The Brits planted a stick of gelignite in the car (such practice was commonplace) and he was charged with possession of explosives. He was remanded in custody for six months, the first trial being stopped due to unusual RUC ineptitude at framing him. At the end of the second trial he was acquitted and released after spending six months in jail.

In 1976, Patsy had to stay out of the house for fear of constant arrest. That year, also, his brother, Tony, was charged with an armed raid, and on the sole evidence of an alleged verbal statement was sentenced to five years in the H-Blocks.

Despite being 'on the run' Patsy was still fond of his creature comforts!

His father recalls: "Sean Seamus came in late one night and though the whole place was in darkness he didn't put the lights on. He went to sit down and fell on the floor. He ran up the stairs and said: 'I went to sit down and there was nothing there'

"Patsy had taken the sofa on top of a red Rover down to his billet in the Brandywell. Then before we would get up in the morning he would have it back up again. When we saw it sitting there in the morning we said to Sean: 'Are you going off your head or what? and he was really puzzled."

IMPRISONED

In September 1976, he was again arrested in the North and along with four others charged with possession of a weapon. During the remand hearings he protested against the withdrawal of political status.

The charge was withdrawn after four months, indicating how the law is twisted to intern people by remanding them in custody and dropping the charges before the case comes to trial.

In June 1977, he was imprisoned for the fourth time. On this occasion, after a seven-day detention in Dublin's Bridewell, he was charged with holding a garda at gunpoint. He was released on bail six weeks later and was eventually acquitted In January 1978.

Whilst living in the Free State, Patsy was elected to the ard chomhairle of the IRSP, was active in the Bray area, and campaigned against the special courts.

In January 1979, he moved back to Derry but was arrested on May 14th, 1979 and was charged with possessing a hand-grenade.

In January 1980, he was sentenced to eight years in jail and went on the blanket.

HUNGER STRIKE

What were Mrs. O'Hara's feelings when Patsy told her he was going on hunger strike?

"My feelings at the start, when he went on hunger strike, were that I thought that they would get their just demands, because it is not very much that they are asking for. There is no use in saying that I was very vexed and all the rest of it. There is no use me sitting back in the wings and letting someone else's son go. Someone's sons have to go on it and I just happen to be the mother of that son."

PRINCIPLES

Writing shortly before the hunger strike began, Patsy O'Hara grimly declared: "We stand for the freedom of the Irish nation so that future generations will enjoy the prosperity they rightly deserve, free from foreign interference, oppression and exploitation. The real criminals are the British imperialists who have thrived on the blood and sweat of generations of Irish men.

"They have maintained control of Ireland through force of arms and there is only one way to end it. I would rather die than rot in this concrete tomb for years to come.

Patsy witnessed the baton charges and said: "The people were sandwiched in another street and with the Specials coming from both sides, swinging their truncheons at anything that moved. It was a terrifying experience and one which I shall always remember."

Mr. and Mrs. O'Hara believe that it was this incident when Patsy was aged eleven, followed by the riots in January 1969 and the 'Battle of the Bogside' in August 1969 that aroused passionate feelings of nationalism, and then republicanism, in their son. "Every day he saw something different happening," says his father. "People getting beaten up, raids and coffins coming out. This was his environment."

JOINED

In 1970, Patsy joined na Fianna Eireann, drilled and trained in Celtic Park.

Early in 1971, and though he was very young, he joined the Patrick Pearse Sinn Fein cumann in the Bogside, selling Easter lilies and newspapers. Internment, introduced in August 1971, hit the O'Hara family particularly severely with the arrest of Sean Seamus in October. "We never had a proper Christmas since then" says Elizabeth. "When Sean Seamus was interned we never put up decorations and our family has been split-up ever since then."

Shortly after Sean's arrest Patsy, one night, went over to a friend's house in Southway where there were barricades. But coming out of the house, British soldiers opened fire, for no apparent reason, and shot Patsy in the leg. He was only fourteen years of age and spent several weeks in hospital and then several more weeks on crutches.

BLOODY SUNDAY

On January 30th, 1972, his father took him to watch the big anti-internment march as it wound its way down from the Creggan. "I struggled across a banking but was unable to go any further. I watched the march go up into the Brandywell. I could see that it was massive. The rest of my friends went to meet it but I could only go back to my mother's house and listen to it on the radio," said Patsy.

Asked about her feelings over Patsy be coming involved in the struggle, Mrs. O'Hara said: "After October 1968, I thought that that was the right thing to do. I am proud of him, proud of them all".

Mr O'Hara said: "Personally speaking, I knew he would get involved. It was in his nature. He hated bullies al his life, and he saw big bullies in uniform and he would tackle them as well.

Shortly after Bloody Sunday, Patsy joined the 'Republican Clubs' and was active until 1973, "when it became apparent that they were firmly on the path to reformism and had abandoned the national question".

INTERNED

From this time onwards he was continually harassed, taken in for interrogation and assaulted.

One day, he and a friend were arrested on the Briemoor Road. Two saracens screeched to a halt beside them. Patsy later described this arrest: "We were thrown onto the floor and as they were bringing us to the arrest centre, we were given a beating with their batons and rifles. When we arrived and were getting out of the vehicles we were tripped and fell on our faces".

Three months later, after his seventeenth birthday, he was taken to the notorious interrogation centre at Ballykelly. He was interrogated for three days and then interned with three others who had been held for nine days.

"Long Kesh had been burned the week previously" said Patsy, "and as we flew above the camp in a British army helicopter we could see the complete devastation. When we arrived, we were given two blankets and mattresses and put into one of the cages.

"For the next two months we were on a starvation diet, no facilities of any" kind, and most men lying out open to the elements...

"That December a ceasefire was announced, then internment was phased out." Merlyn Rees also announced at the same time that special category status would be withdrawn on March 1st, 1976. I did not know then how much that change of policy would effect me in less than three years".

Patsy O'Hara died at 11.29 p.m. on Thursday, May 21st - on the same day as Raymond McCreesh with whom he had embarked on the hunger-strike sixty-one days earlier.

Even in death his torturers would not let him rest. When the O'Hara family been broken and his corpse bore several burn marks inflicted after his death.

Published in IRIS, Vol. 1, No. 2, November 1981. IRIS was a publication of the Sinn Fein Foreign Affairs Bureau.

-----------------------------------

Larkspirit.com

Raymond McCreesh

Died May 21st, 1981

A quiet, good-natured and discreet republican

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THE THIRD of the resolutely determined IRA Volunteers to join the H-Block hunger strike for political status was twenty-four-year-old Raymond McCreesh, from Camlough in South Armagh: a quiet, shy and good-humoured republican, who although captured at the early age of nineteen, along with two other Volunteers in a British army ambush, had already almost three years active republican involvement behind him.

During those years he had established himself as one of the most dedicated and invaluable republican activists in that part of the six counties to which the Brits themselves have - half-fearfully, half-respectfully - given the name 'bandit country' and which has become a living legend in republican circles, during the present war, for the courage and resourcefulness of its Volunteers: the border land of South Armagh.

Raymond's resolve to hunger strike to the death, to secure the prisoners' five demands was indicated in a smuggled-out letter written by Paddy Quinn, an H-Block blanket man - who was later to embark on hunger strike himself - who was captured along with Raymond and who received the same fourteen year sentence: "I wrote Raymie a couple of letters before he went to the prison hospital. He wrote back and according to the letter he was in great spirits and very determined. A sign of that determination was the way he finished off by saying: Ta seans ann go mbeidh me abhaile rombat a chara' which means: There is a chance that I'll be home before you, my friend!"

Captured in June 1976, and sentenced in March 1977, when he refused to recognise the court, Raymond would have been due for release in about two years' time had he not embarked on his principled protest for political status, which led him, ultimately, to hunger strike.

FAMILY

Raymond Peter McCreesh, the seventh in a family of eight children, was born in a small semi-detached house at St. Malachy's Park, Camlough - where the family still live - on February 25th, 1957.

The McCreeshes, a nationalist family in a staunchly nationalist area, have been rooted in South Armagh for seven generations, and both Raymond's parents - James aged 65, a retired local council worker, and Susan (whose maiden name is Quigley), aged 60 - come from the nearby townland of Dorsey.

Raymond was a quiet but very lively person, very good-natured and - like other members of his family - extremely witty. Not the sort of person who would push himself forward if he was in a crowd, and indeed often rather a shy person in his personal relationships until he got to know a person well. Nevertheless, in his republican capacity he was known as a capable, dedicated and totally committed Volunteer who could show leadership and aggression where necessary.

Among both his family and his republican associates, Raymond was renowned for his laughter and for "always having a wee smile on him". His sense of humour remained even during his four-year incarceration in the H-Blocks, as well as during his hunger strike where he continued to insist that he was "just fine."

SCHOOL

Raymond went first to Camlough primary school, and then to St. Coleman's college in Newry. It was at St. Coleman's that Raymond met Danny McGuinness, also from Camlough, and the two became steadfast friends. They later became republican comrades, and Danny too then a nineteen-year-old student who had just completed his 'A' levels was captured along with Raymond and Paddy Quinn, and is now in the H-Blocks.

At school, Raymond's strongest interest was in Irish language and Irish history, and he read widely in those subjects. His understanding of Irish history led him to a fervently nationalist outlook, and he was regarded as a 'hothead' in his history classes, and as being generally "very conscious of his Irishness".

He was also a sportsman, and played under-sixteen and Minor football for Carrickcruppin Gaelic football club as well as taking a keen interest in the local youth club where he played basketball and pool, and was regarded a good snooker player.

When he was fourteen years old, Raymond got a weekend job working on a milk round through the South Armagh border area, around Mullaghbawn and Dromintee. Later on, after leaving his job in Lisburn, he worked full-time on the milk round, where he would always stop and chat to customers. He became a great favourite amongst them and many enquired about him long after he left the round.

RESISTANCE

During the early 'seventies, the South Armagh border area was the stamping ground of the British army's Parachute regiment, operating out of Bessbrook camp less than two miles from Raymond's home. Stories of their widespread brutality and harassment of local people abound, and built-up then a degree of resentment and resistance amongst most of the nationalist population that is seen to this day.

The SAS terror regiment began operating in this area in large numbers too, in a vain attempt to counter republican successes, and the high level of assassinations of local people on both sides of the South Armagh border, notably three members of the Reavey family in 1975, was believed locally to have been the work both of the SAS, and of UDR and RUC members holding dual membership with 'illegal' loyalist paramilitary organisations.

Given this scenario and Raymond's understanding of Irish history, it is small wonder that he became involved in the republican struggle.

JOINED

He first of all joined na Fianna Eireann early in 1973 and towards the end of that year joined the Irish Republican Army's 1st Battalion, South Armagh.

Even before joining the IRA, and despite his very young age, Raymond - with remarkable awareness and maturity - became one of the first Volunteers in the South Armagh area to adopt a very low, security conscious, republican profile.

He rarely drank, but if occasionally in a pub he would not discuss either politics or his own activities, and he rarely attended demonstrations or indeed anything which would have brought him to the attention of the enemy.

It was because of this remarkable self-discipline and discretion that during his years of intense republican involvement Raymond was never once arrested or even held for screening in the North, and only twice held briefly in the South.

Consequently, Raymond was never obliged to go 'on the run', continuing to live at home until the evening of his capture, and always careful not to cause his family any concern or alarm.

Fitted in with his republican activities Raymond would relax by going to dances or by going to watch football matches at weekends.

WORK

After leaving school he spent a year at Newry technical college studying fabrication engineering, and afterwards got a job at Gambler Simms (Steel) Ltd. in Lisburn. He had a conscientious approach to his craft but was obliged to leave after a year because of a fear of assassination.

Each day he travelled to work from Newry, in a bus along with four or five mates who had got jobs there too from the technical college, but the prevailing high level of sectarian assassinations, and the suspicion justifiably felt of the predominantly loyalist work-force at Gambler Simms, made Raymond, and many other nationalist workers, decide that travelling such a regular route through loyalist country side was simply too risky.

So, after leaving the Lisburn factory, Raymond began to work full-time as a milk roundsman, an occupation which would greatly have increased his knowledge of the surrounding countryside, as well as enabling him to observe the movements of British army patrols and any other untoward activity in the area.

ACTIVITY

Republican activity in that area during those years consisted largely of landmine attacks and ambushes on enemy patrols.

Raymond had the reputation of a republican who was very keen to suggest and take part in operations, almost invariably working in his own, extremely tight, active service unit, though occasionally, when requested - as he frequently was - assisting other units in neighbouring areas with specific operations. He would always carefully consider the pros and cons of any operation, and would never panic or lose his nerve.

In undertaking the hunger strike, Raymond gave the matter the same careful consideration he would have expended on a military operation, he undertook nothing either a rush, or for bluff.

CAPTURE

The operation which led to the capture of Raymond, his boyhood friend, Danny McGuiness, and Patrick Quinn, took place on June 25th, 1976.

An active service unit comprising these three and a fourth Volunteer arrived in a commandeered car at a farmyard in the town land of Sturgan a mile from Camlough - at about 9.25 p.m.

Their objective was to ambush a covert Brit observation post which they had located opposite the Mountain House Inn, on the main Newry - Newtonhamilton Road, half-a-mile away. They were not aware, however, that another covert British observation post, on a steep hillside half-a-mile away, had already spotted the four masked, uniformed and armed Volunteers, clearly visible below them, and that radioed helicopter reinforcements were already closing in.

As the fourth Volunteer drove the commandeered car down the road to the agreed ambush point, to act as a lure for the Brits, the other three moved down the hedgeline of the fields, into position. The fourth Volunteer, however, as he returned, as arranged, to rejoin his comrades, spotted the British Paratroopers on the hillside closing in on his unsuspecting friends and, although armed only with a short range Stengun, opened fire to warn the others.

Immediately, the Brits opened fire with SLRs and light machine-guns, churning up the ground around the Volunteers with hundreds of rounds, firing indiscriminately into the nearby farmhouse and two vehicles parked outside, and killing a grazing cow!

The fourth Volunteer was struck by three bullets, in the leg, arm and chest, but managed to crawl away and to elude the massive follow up search, escaping safely - though seriously injured - the following day.

Raymond and Paddy Quinn ran zig-zag across open fields to a nearby house, under fire all this time, intending to commandeer a car. Unfortunately, the car belonging to the occupants of the house was parked at a neighbour's house several hundred yards away. Even then the pair might have escaped but that they delayed several minutes waiting for their comrade, Danny McGuinness, who however had got separated from them and had taken cover in a disused quarry outhouse (where he was captured in a follow-up operation the next day).

The house in which Raymond and Paddy took cover was immediately besieged by berserk Paratroopers who riddled the house with bullets. Even when the two Volunteers surrendered, after the arrival of a local priest, and came out through the front door with their hands up, the Paras opened fire again and the Pair were forced to retreat back into the house.

On the arrival of the RUC, the two Volunteers again surrendered and were taken to Bessbrook barracks where they were questioned and beaten for three days before being charged.

REMARKABLE

One remarkable aspect of the British ambush concerns the role of Lance-Corporal David Jones, a member of the 3rd Battalion, the Parachute regiment. According to Brit statements at the trial it was he who first opened up on the IRA active service unit from the hillside.

Nine months later, on March 16th, 1977 two IRA Volunteers encountered two Paratroopers (at the time seconded to the SAS) in a field outside Maghera in South Derry. In the ensuing gun battle, one SAS man was shot dead, and one IRA Volunteer was captured. The Volunteer's name was Francis Hughes, the dead Brit was Lance-Corporal David Jones of the Parachute regiment.

In the eighteen months before going on hunger strike together neither Raymond McCreesh or Francis Hughes were aware of what would seem to have been an ironic but supremely fitting example of republican solidarity!

After nine months remand in Crumlin Road jail, Raymond was tried and convicted in March 1977, of attempting to kill Brits, possession of a Garand rifle and ammunition, and IRA membership. He received a fourteen-year sentence, and lesser concurrent sentences, after refusing to recognise the court.

In the H-Blocks he immediately joined the blanket protest, and so determined was his resistance to criminalisation that he refused to take his monthly visits for four years, right up until he informed his family of his decision to go on hunger strike on February 15th, this year. He also refused to send out monthly letters, writing only smuggled 'communications' to his family and friends.

The only member of his family to see him at all during those four years in Long Kesh two or three times - was his brother, Fr. Brian McCreesh, who occasionally says Mass in the H-Blocks.

HUNGER STRIKE

Like Francis Hughes, Raymond volunteered for the earlier hunger strike, and, when he was not chosen among the first seven, took part in the four-day hunger strike by thirty republicans until the hunger strike ended on December 18th, last year.

Speaking to his brother, Malachy, shortly after Bobby Sands death, Raymond said what a great loss had been felt by the other hunger strikers, but it had made them more determined than ever.

And still managing to keep his spirits up, when told of his brother, Fr. Brian, campaigning for him on rally platforms, Raymond joked: "He'll probably get excommunicated for it."

To Britain's eternal shame, the sombre half-prediction made by Raymond to his friend Paddy Quinn - Ta seans ann go mbeid me abhaile rombat - became a grim reality. Bhi se. Raymond died at 2.11 a.m. on Thursday May 21st, 1981, after 61 days on hunger strike.

Published in IRIS, Vol. 1, No. 2, November 1981. IRIS was a publication of the Sinn Fein Foreign Affairs Bureau.

20 May 2005

An Phoblacht

The day they burned the Custom House - Remembering the Past

BY SHANE Mac THOMÁIS

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us

When Dick McKee was murdered on Bloody Sunday 1920 in Dublin Castle, Oscar Traynor became OC of the Dublin Brigade of the IRA. In the early months of 1921 he was called to a meeting by the senior members of the Republican Movement. The meeting was held in 40 Herbert Park, the home of The O Rahilly's widow. Amongst those attending the meeting were Cathal Brugha (Minister of Defence), Michael Collins (Intelligence), Liam Mellows (Purchase) and Seán Russell (Munitions).

During the meeting, Eamon de Valera arrived, having passed through a British military cordon that had been placed around Herbert Park. At the meeting, Dev proposed a major operation, which he felt was vital to bring Ireland's struggle for independence to the world stage. He proposed either the seizure of Beggars Bush Barracks (headquarters of the detested Auxiliaries) or the destruction of the Custom House.

The latter was the then administrative heart of British rule in Ireland and housed the entire local government archives and more importantly, all the tax files for Ireland.

Traynor was ordered to study the feasibility of the two operations and quickly concluded that the attack on the Custom House was more within the capacity of the Dublin Brigade.

Traynor and Tom Ennis, his second in command, began planning the operation over the next three months.

Both of them used the simple ruse of walking through the Custom House with large OHMS (On His Majesty's Service) envelopes as a cover for their surveillance.

The final plans of the IRA's largest operation ever were agreed to by a sub-committee of the Army Council at a meeting held on 21 May in 6 Gardiner Row. At the meeting, Traynor sought permission for 50 barricades, covered by snipers, near all military barracks in the city. Michael Collins vetoed this part of the plan, as he thought that this would look like general insurrection. Traynor felt that this was an absolute requirement for his men's safe extraction but he accepted Collins' revised plan.

The final plan was divided into two specific areas. Firstly, the capture of the building and its destruction, and secondly, the protection of the Volunteers. The 2nd Battalion was charged with the capture and destruction of the building, while the 1st Battalion was to protect the building from surprise attack and to immobilise all the fire brigade stations in the vicinity.

The 5th Battalion was charged with the task of cutting all communications from the Custom House with the outside world, including the direct line from it to Dublin Castle. The Active Service Unit of the Dublin Brigade, known as The Squad, was given the task of occupying the main hall and making sure no civilian personnel left the building until the paraffin had done its work.

At 12.55pm on 25 May, the Volunteers of the Dublin Brigade went into action. They entered the building in twos and threes so as not to attract attention. All civil service employees were rounded up and brought to the main hall, where they were guarded by the Squad.

The Volunteers then began dousing the interior with paraffin. The 5th Battalion scaled telegraph poles and climbed into manholes to cut the telephone wires. The 3rd Battalion seized Tara Street fire station and as evidence of the fire emerged, Volunteers staffing the phone line told callers that help was on its way.

The Volunteers continued in a very methodical manner to saturate the labyrinth of offices with paraffin and awaited the two whistle blasts that was their signal to withdraw. Unfortunately, a premature blast was heard, which caused some confusion, and by the time order had been re-established the Black and Tans had arrived on the scene.

A savage gun battle broke out in which Volunteers Paddy O'Reilly, his brother Stephen, Seán Doyle, Sean Head and Tommy Dorrins were killed in action. All five men were from the North Inner City of Dublin, which was the catchment area of the 2nd Battalion.

Following the operation, the pro-British press made much of the destruction of their fine building. The Irish Times called the operation "senseless and wanton", while the London Morning Post wrote that the Volunteers were "not a patriotic party but Bolsheviks" and that "to talk of negotiating with such criminals is in itself a crime".

The Government of the Republic responded to these allegations of criminality in the Irish Bulletin, where Erskine Childers wrote that although it regretted the destruction of an historic building, "the lives of four million people were more sacred a charge than any architectural Masterpiece".

One month after the destruction of the Custom House, Lloyd George began negotiations with Dev for a truce, which began on 11 July 1921.

Despite heavy losses of personnel (up to 100 were captured) the operation was a complete success. One of the tools of tyranny, with all its bureaucratic contents, had been destroyed. England had been dealt a blow to its financial stranglehold on Ireland from which it was never to recover.

On 25 May 1921, 84 years ago, the Dublin Brigade of the IRA carried out its largest operation to date.

An Phoblacht

Belfast Hunger Strike Anniversary Rally - Criminalisation didn't work then and it will not work now

19 May 2005

Last Sunday, thousands of people gathered in West Belfast to celebrate the legacy of republican resistance embodied by the 1981 Hunger Strike and pay tribute to the ten brave young men who died in Long Kesh rather than accept the criminalisation of their struggle for Irish freedom.

PHOTO: Our revenge will be the laughter of our children

Led by a smartly turned out colour party and the Felons pipe band, a row of smiling children carrying placards bearing pictures of the H-Block Martyrs and of Michael Gaughan and Frank Stagg — both of whom died on hunger strike in English prisons — the parade made its way down the Falls Road to Dunville Park.

Behind them, a larger group of young people proudly sported 'Spirit of Freedom' t-shirts bearing the phrase made famous by the late Bobby Sands: "Our revenge will be the laughter of our children."

The remainder of the large crowd made their way down the road behind West Belfast's Éire Nua flute band, who were also in brilliant form. In Dunville Park, young people released doves to symbolise the spirit of republican freedom and Sinn Féin's Francie Brolly sang the Hunger Strike song, I'll Wear No Convict's Uniform.

Those present were treated to even more great music as the afternoon progressed — including the Turkish hunger strike song performed by Pól Mac Adaim and the Ballad of Joe McDonnell. As children played and enjoyed ice cream in the sunshine, their parents listened while the guest speakers — Sinn Féin's Mary Nelis and Gerry Kelly, Ogra's Andrea O'Kane, and Enda McElwee, sister of Thomas McElwee — spoke of the strength and courage of the ten H-Block Martyrs and their families.

PHOTO: Music and enjoyment with Pól Mac Adaim

"We are gathered here today to honour the memory of those who died 24 years ago on hunger strike in Long Kesh," Nelis told the crowd. "They are now as they were then, republican freedom fighters, men who gave their lives for the cause of the Republic and for the love of their fellow prisoners.

"We have carved their names with pride along with the names of Thomas Ashe, Tomás McCurtain, Frank Stagg, Micheal Gaughan and all who died a lonely and painful death by hunger strike. And while we remember them, we also remember and pay tribute to their relatives — their mothers and fathers, their wives and children and family members. For they too suffered, and we can only imagine the pain and sorrow they endured during those terrible years.

"The years 1980 and 1981 will be remembered with great sorrow, but they will also be remembered as the defining moment for republicans in this phase of our struggle. The British knew that if they could break the Hunger Strike they could break the struggle. But it didn't work then and it will not work now — not while the graves of our dead and the memory of their sacrifice continue to inspire us."

Turning her attention to recent events in the 26 Counties, Nelis made no effort to conceal her contempt for certain Irish politicians.

"What about O'Dea," she asked, "whose face looks like a brush turned inside out each time he says the words Sinn Féin?

"Willie likes to stand at British war memorials commemorating British soldiers who fought and died to preserve the 'Empire' — ignoring the fact that those same British soldiers murdered Irish men, women and children and also ignoring the fact that British soldiers continue to torture and humiliate prisoners in Iraq the same way they tortured Irish internees.

"And what of Michael McDowell?" she continued as the crowd roared approval. "The Minister for Justice is so busy criminalising republicans that he has allowed that place he presides over to become like Chicago during the Al Capone era.

"Alas for poor Willie and Michael and the rest of the Free State Quislings, republicans are still here. And we will still be here when they are not.

"The best tribute we can pay the memory of the Hunger Strikers is to fight the attempts to criminalise our struggle. So let's take on McDowell and O'Dea and all those who think they have us beat. Join Sinn Féin. Take to the streets and protest. Celebrate republicanism. Be proud of who and what we are. And let's get into them!"

Gerry Kelly, the main speaker of the day, told the assembled audience that Sinn Féin will not allow plans for power-sharing to be thwarted, despite the recent electoral gains of the DUP. He too, spoke pointedly about the blatant and self-serving political opportunism displayed by southern politicians.

"Never since the Thatcher regime have I witnessed such an onslaught from the establishment attempting to criminalise our republican past and present," he said. "The difference this time is that the front runners in this opportunistic propaganda drive have included leading members of the SDLP as well as Dublin Government Ministers like Michael McDowell and Dermot and Bertie Ahern.

"At the core of this are electoral interests in the 26 Counties. In pursuit of that, the interests of the Peace Process have been set aside, the interests of national and democratic rights and the rights of citizens have also been set aside."

Sinn Féin

Sinn Féin to use Dáil time to oppose Aer Lingus privatisation

Published: 20 May, 2005

Sinn Féin Transport spokesperson, Seán Crowe TD has said that Sinn Féin will use its Private Members Business time next week to call on the Government to retain the national airline, Aer Lingus, in State ownership. Deputy Crowe said "The sale of State's majority share represents a sell-out of the Irish taxpayer and of the workforce."

Speaking from his Dublin South West constituency today he said, "Next week Sinn Féin will use its Private Members‚ Business time to call on the Government to retain Aer Lingus in State ownership as the national airline.

"Aer Lingus is a very profitable airline. The claim that there is a need for privatisation to finance the development of the airline is a false one. It is being used as an excuse to advance the privatisation agenda of this Government - both Fianna Fáil and the PDs. Driven by their ideological privatisation agenda this Government is preparing to abandon a strategic national asset.

"The sale of State's majority share represents a sell-out of the Irish taxpayer and of the workfroce. The only beneficiaries from this will be multinational capital interests who are poised to exploit the company.

"You only need to look at the privatisation of Eircom which proved to be disastrous, benefiting only a handful of wealthy individuals, to see that the privatisation agenda only favours the speculative vultures who are only too ready to pounce on attractive state assets, which were built up over the years by the taxpayer and the workforce.

"Sinn Féin will oppose the privatisation of Aer Lingus and the privatisation agenda of this Government at every opportunity."ENDS

An Phoblacht

Lisburn remains citadel of sectarianism

19 May 2005

Wednesday's AGM of Lisburn Council, which has a record of excluding nationalists, saw the majority DUP combine with the Alliance Party to exclude Sinn Féin again from any of the committee chair or vice chair positions. The DUP's Paul Craig is mayor and Alliance's Trevor Lunn deputy mayor.

SDLP member Patricia Lewesley, in a personal deal struck with the unionist parties, was given the chair of the environmental services committee.

Sinn Féin will now call on the British government to appoint an administrator to run Lisburn council. "The Irish Government will also be asked to back our proposals and to push the British on this issue," said Paul Butler.

"Jeffrey Donaldson led the DUP into Lisburn council with the sole intention of turning the council into a unionist fiefdom dominated by the DUP," said Butler.

Sinn Féin's four members have just two committee positions between them after the sectarian carve up.

"We will now be calling on the British government to appoint an administrator to run the council until they bring in legislation that makes it binding on councils like Lisburn to have in place power sharing arrangements and other checks and balances to curb discrimination in relation to council services and facilities," said Butler. "The Irish government should also raise this with the British Government and call for legislation to bring about power sharing in local government."

"Lisburn council has been a bastion of unionist discrimination in the North. Nationalists living in Lisburn have experienced at first hand how they have put that discrimination into practice. The British Government need to step in and take control of Lisburn Council out of the hands of unionists.

"News that Tony Blair gave the DUP time to consider whether they accept the need to share power with nationalists and republicans was tantamount to giving the DUP a stallers' charter. It does not augur well when Tony Blair is giving the DUP an option on power sharing. The British Government, along with the Irish Government, should be unequivocal about the need for power sharing as envisaged under the Good Friday Agreement."

BBC

Loyalist jailed over press event


Denis Cunningham wore a balaclava during UFF press conference

A member of a loyalist political group who admitted fronting a paramilitary press conference has been jailed for two-and-a-half years.

Denis Cunningham, 52, from Agnes Street in west Belfast, pleaded guilty to professing to be a member of the outlawed Ulster Freedom Fighters.

Cunningham, a member of the Ulster Political Research Group, wore a mask during the January 2002 conference.

A Belfast Crown Court judge said he had been part of a "grotesque spectacle".

The court heard that Cunningham chaired the conference on 15 January 2002, wearing his glasses over a balaclava.

He said he was a member of the UFF and called on the loyalist Red Hand Defenders to "stand down" after the murder of Catholic postal worker, Daniel McColgan.

The Red Hand Defenders had previously been used as a cover name by the UFF.

Mask

Prosecution QC Paul Ramsey told the court the police investigation began after the BBC's Panorama programme alleged that Cunningham was the man behind the mask.

His voice was subsequently forensically linked to recordings taken of him speaking on behalf of the Ulster Political Research Group.

Mr Justice Gillen said the conference had been a "grotesque spectacle of masked and armed men surrounded by you arrogantly bestriding our TV screens... disfiguring our whole society".

Independent councillor Frank McCoubrey, Father Gary Donegan from Holy Cross Parish Church and Shankill Presbyterian minister Rev Mervyn Gibson told the court Cunningham had been "instrumental in advancing cross-community relations".

The judge said the sentence would have been longer if it had not been for this evidence.

LA Times

A Wounded Town Still Waits for Resolution

No one has faced murder charges in the 1998 bombing that killed 29 in Omagh, Northern Ireland. Now officials have a suspect.


By Ron DePasquale, Special to The Times
20 May 2005



OMAGH, Northern Ireland — When a massive car bomb killed 29 people and ripped through this quiet country town in 1998, many feared that the recently signed Good Friday peace accord for Northern Ireland would be torn apart as well.

The agreement survived the attack and its aftermath. But nearly seven years later, the Omagh bombing remains unsolved, and the wounds from the last major act of terrorism in Northern Ireland have not healed.

Now, however, survivors and the relatives of those who died have cause for hope. A prosecutor said in court Thursday that a 35-year-old electrician, already in custody on suspicion of several other terrorism crimes, will be charged next week with 29 counts of murder and other offenses in connection with the Omagh attack.

The suspect, Sean Gerard Hoey, was identified by a review of forensic evidence, the public prosecutor's office said without elaborating. Although a breakaway group of the Irish Republican Army, the Real IRA, apologized long ago for the bombing, Hoey will be the first to face murder charges in the case. A retrial was ordered early this year for the one person convicted in the attack, a man accused of aiding the plot.

"It's quite a turning point," said Michael Gallagher, the soft-spoken leader of the victims' families. "I've always felt very bitter that nobody had been held to account. The message for the last 35 years has been, you can literally create mass murder here and get away with it."

Gallagher, whose 21-year-old son, Aidan, was killed in the attack, has a clear view of the bombing site from the families' campaign office down the street. New buildings house a department store, trendy boutiques and cafes on a block that was reduced to rubble by the bomb, which injured more than 300 shoppers and workers. The street remains under reconstruction and is only partially accessible.

Speaking in the spartan office, Gallagher recalled that sunny Saturday of Aug. 15, 1998. Aidan, who worked for his father doing auto body repair, said he was going downtown to pick up a pair of jeans to wear on a date that night.

Gallagher was working on a car when he heard the explosion. His daughter Sharon was also downtown but wasn't injured.

After 16 chaotic hours and three hospital visits, Gallagher was taken to identify his son. "I was fortunate," Gallagher said. "Some had to wait up to three days and had very little to see."

The aggrieved families soon decided to mount a campaign they hoped would prevent the victims from joining the list of some 2,000 unsolved killings from "the Troubles," the conflict over whether Northern Ireland, a British province, should be made part of the Republic of Ireland.

Gallagher, a Roman Catholic whose younger brother had served in the British security services and was allegedly killed by the IRA in 1984, was elected to lead the Omagh Self-Help and Support Group. He found it impossible to return to fixing cars, especially as he saw the investigation going nowhere, and decided to work solely on the campaign for justice.

"I'd have my tools in my hands, trying to work, and thinking I should be banging down someone's door and saying, 'What can you do about this?' " said Gallagher, whose effort inspired a 2004 television movie, "Omagh."

The families weren't the only critics of the initial investigation. A 2001 report by the police service's ombudsman said police had ignored warning signs that a bombing was imminent, then bungled the inquiry. Northern Ireland's police chief eventually retired amid a storm of criticism.

Frustrated, the families decided on an unprecedented legal move: suing the Real IRA, the illegal organization that had admitted to the bombing, in civil court.

Five men accused by the families of plotting the attack are also being sued. The British government agreed to contribute nearly $3 million to the families' legal fight, which has not yet gone to court.

Among the five named in the case is the Real IRA's alleged leader, Michael McKevitt, who is serving 20 years in prison in Ireland. McKevitt was convicted of directing terrorism, a charge created amid the public outrage over the Omagh bombing.

Hoey was not among the defendants listed in the lawsuit.

A new criminal investigation in Northern Ireland led police to Hoey. Prosecutors decided to charge him after an 18-month review of the forensic evidence by an international panel of scientists.

Accused by prosecutors of being a member of the Real IRA, Hoey has been in custody since September 2003. The previous charges pending against him involved explosives and alleged possession of timers linked to mortar attacks and roadside bombs in the months before Omagh, according to news service reports.

As Hoey's trial looms, the Omagh families are again calling on Sinn Fein, the political wing of the mainstream IRA, to encourage its supporters to give evidence.

The families want Sinn Fein to make the same kind of public appeal it eventually made after a Belfast man was killed, allegedly by IRA members, after a barroom argument in January.

"Sinn Fein is happy to challenge the British state and complain about its system of injustice, but when it comes down to the other side of things, they are less willing to act," said Victor Barker, who lost his 12-year-old son, James, in the Omagh bombing.

Although someone might finally be held to account for the killings, the trial will be difficult for a town that has just begun to move on, several Omagh residents said. Some, like Paul Maguire, a 25-year-old office worker, are reluctant to expect too much.

"Everyone knows who did it, everyone knows their names," Maguire said, referring to the families' civil suit against McKevitt and the four others.

"Nobody had ever heard of this guy [Hoey] before. Hopefully he's not just some scapegoat."


BreakingNews.ie

Ahern rejects Good Friday Agreement review

20/05/2005 - 12:59:45



The Good Friday Agreement has already been reviewed and must not be re-negotiated, An Taoiseach Bertie Ahern said today.

Mr Ahern rejected comments yesterday by the DUP that the 1998 accord was dead and a new beginning was needed.

He said the agreement was reviewed for most of 2004 with political parties in the North and was accepted by the DUP and other political parties there before the aborted power-sharing deal last December.

"We've had the review and the review is finished," Mr Ahern said after attending the seventh British-Irish Council summit on the Isle of Man today.

He added: "We respect the good relationships we have built up with Unionism, but the basis for moving forward is with the Good Friday Agreement."

He said altering the agreement now was "not a possibility".

DUP leader the Rev Ian Paisley said after meeting British Prime Minister Tony Blair yesterday that a new beginning was needed because the 1998 accord was dead.

"I think it should be given a reasonable burial," he added.

Guardian

Human embryo cloned


The blastocyst or early stage embryo produced by the Newcastle team. Photograph: RBM Online

-------------

BreakingNews.ie

Taoiseach expected to meet McBrearty family today

20/05/2005 - 07:47:15

The Taoiseach Bertie Ahern is expected to meet members of the McBrearty family in Sligo this evening to discuss their difficulties with the Morris Tribunal.

The tribunal was set up to investigate alleged garda corruption in Donegal, including the alleged harassment of the McBreartys, who own a local nightclub.

The family, however, has stopped co-operating with the inquiry because the State is refusing to cover the costs they incur.

The Government has repeatedly said it cannot guarantee to cover these costs because they are an issue solely for the tribunal.

Speaking ahead of today's meeting, Frank McBrearty Jnr said this was disingenuous.

"The Garda Commissioner and the Minister for Justice granted themselves the luxury of legal aid at the Morris Tribunal at the expense of the taxpayers and they are the people who caused the problems in Donegal," he said.

BBC

Asbestos victims 'will increase'


Onset of disease can be delayed by up to 40 years

A group set up to support sufferers of asbestos related diseases and their families has said the number of people affected is expected to grow.

A special conference is taking place in Belfast to discuss what can be done to tackle the problem.

Justice for Asbestos Victims was set up in 2002 by sufferers and the families of those who died from the diseases.

The group said it aimed to change "the appalling lack of local services and information available to victims".

Asbestos Related Diseases (ARDs) are predicted to rise to about 10,000 deaths a year across the UK, said the group.

The onset of the diseases can be delayed by up to 40 years after exposure, it said.

'History and development'

"The vast majority of those now suffering with ARDs were exposed to asbestos in the 1940s, 50s, 60s and 1970s," said a spokesman.

"Northern Ireland's asbestos legacy arises from its shipbuilding industry at Harland and Wolff, its numerous power stations, including Kilroot and Coolkeragh, its building industry and other allied trades where asbestos materials where utilised.

"As a support group, JAV feel that the general public together with elected representatives and other professionals are still not aware of the existence of the future increase of ARDs.

"JAV has organised its first annual conference to highlight all aspects of asbestos exposure in Northern Ireland - including the history and development of asbestos law."

Legal and health professionals will address Friday's conference at the Waterfront Hall.


BBC

Seventh British-Irish summit held


Council is meeting in the Isle of Man

The seventh summit of the British-Irish Council, which was set up under the Good Friday Agreement, will get under way later.

The meeting of representatives from across the British Isles is taking place in Douglas, in the Isle of Man.

Its main theme will be the application of telemedicine to modernise the delivery of health and social care.

The council was set up in 1998 to promote positive, practical relationships among members.

Its membership consists of the British and Irish governments and the devolved administrations of Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man.

However, Northern Ireland's assembly has been suspended since October 2002.

The council provides a forum for discussion, exchange of information and co-operation between its members.

Each region has an issue which it gives a lead on - Northern Ireland's is transport.

Washington Times

Sinn Fein: DUP must deal or be excluded

By Hannah K. Strange
UPI U.K. Correspondent

London, England, May. 19 (UPI) -- If the Democratic Unionist Party will not commit to the implementation of the Good Friday Agreement in Northern Ireland, the peace process should go forward without it, Sinn Fein Leader Gerry Adams said Thursday.

Turning the tables on DUP Leader Ian Paisley, who has repeatedly demanded Sinn Fein's exclusion from a power-sharing executive, Adams told a London news conference if the DUP did not want a deal, it would have to be excluded. Sinn Fein is the political wing of the Irish Republican Army.

Speaking before going to Downing Street for talks, Adams said there was "no possibility" of Sinn Fein being excluded from the Northern Ireland assembly.

The DUP has described the Good Friday Agreement as "fatally flawed," "undemocratic" and biased toward republicans. In the recent British elections, the party ran on an anti-agreement platform and defeated the more moderate Ulster Unionist Party by a landslide, consolidating its position as the principle voice of unionism and the largest party in Northern Ireland.

But Adams said the ascendancy of the DUP did not mean a deal could not be reached. Sinn Fein believed it wanted a deal but on its own terms, he said. However there was no way forward but on the basis of the Good Friday Agreement, he continued, and British Prime Minister Tony Blair, standing "shoulder to shoulder" with Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern, had to make that clear.

"The days when nationalists in the North of Ireland rolled over and lay down and tugged their forelocks are over, those days are finished," Adam said. "And we're not threatening the DUP with anything except equality. What we're saying to them (is) we want to do business with you on (Republicans) having exactly the same rights."

Paisley would have to step up to that challenge, he said, adding "We'll see the measure of the man in the times ahead."

In April, Adams called on the IRA to lay down its weapons and involve itself in the democratic process. He told the media Thursday he was confident there was an internal process of consultation going on, but that progress in the peace process should not have to wait until the paramilitary group responded. There were many principles of the Good Friday Agreement that needed to be implemented now, he said.

"We all signed up for a Bill of Rights seven years ago, we don't have a bill of rights seven years later," he said.

No one should have to wait until the IRA decommissioned, he said. They were not concessions but measures the British and Irish governments signed up to in an international treaty, he said.

"Now, will they do these things? Well, we'll see."

The parties involved could put a "whole big pile of preconditions in there and make sure it doesn't work" or "go forward sensibly, with politicians taking up their responsibilities of actually making politics work, of getting conflict resolution processes in place, of engaging in dialogue, and then deal with all these other issues as part of that, as opposed to making one issue preconditional upon another issue being resolved."

He called for the DUP to engage in dialogue with Sinn Fein -- Paisley has consistently refused to meet with Adams.

"If they are genuinely confident unionists they should be prepared to sit down and try and through dialogue sort these matters out."

He could put "a million preconditions" on the British and refuse to go to Downing Street, he said.

"We have more British troops in the north of Ireland than there are in Iraq. Get them out. Let's do things to give people some sense that 10 years into IRA cessations, that other military forces are prepared to respond to the peace imperative," Adams said.

He said he was optimistic the process could move forward in the coming months. Blair wanted to resolve the situation to leave a legacy in his final term and Sinn Fein would not be "found wanting in trying to seize that opportunity." The DUP would have to come to the table if they wanted to hold power in Northern Ireland, he said.

"If Ian Paisley wants to be the first minister, he can only be the first minister with a Sinn Fein deputy first minister," he said. "If he wants to be in power he can only be in power with other citizens having exactly the same rights of equality as those who he represents."

However speaking after talks with Blair, Paisley insisted the DUP will not share power with Sinn Fein because the party cannot be trusted.

The DUP leader told media he would not serve as first minister with a Sinn Fein deputy first minister.

"They have had their chance and they have failed," he said. "I don't trust them and the people don't trust them."

He added: "Mr. Adams said today that the IRA would never be disbanded -- so if that is his view, then that is it."

Privately the British government believes there can be no progress until the IRA respond to Adams' call. A senior Northern Ireland Office official, who requested anonymity, said Wednesday there was virtually no chance of movement without a response from the group, which they anticipated would come sometime during the summer months.

He agreed with the DUP's assessment that Sinn Fein and the IRA were "one and the same," but said this did not mean Adams had control. Adams needed to get the grassroots IRA elements on side and this would take time, he told United Press International.

Should Adams simply order the IRA to decommission, he would risk assassination, he said.

Britain was not "soft on the republicans" as unionists have alleged, he said, but the door would always remain open to them and exclusion was not an option. A settlement without Sinn Fein would simply not work, he concluded.


BBC

Cash boost for Boyne battle site


A museum is to be built at the Boyne battle site

The Irish government has announced that a further 15m euro is to be spent developing tourist facilities at Ireland's most famous battle site.

The money will be used to fund a museum and an interpretive centre on the theme of the Williamite revolution at the site of the Battle of the Boyne.

The Irish government announced the development plans on Thursday.

Historian Sean Collins said he hoped the Boyne Project would give the site the recognition it deserved.

Traditions

The Battle of the Boyne was fought between William of Orange and Catholic King James II at the site outside Drogheda, County Meath, in 1690.

Every year the Protestant Orange Order celebrate William's victory on 12 July.

The Irish government has already spent 15m euro on purchasing and repairing the site.

Mr Collins said the site was of extreme historical importance to both unionist and nationalist traditions on the island of Ireland.

"I suppose in many ways the Boyne can be seen as the Ganges to every good Orangeman or brethren," he said.

"It is a very historical site, indeed it was the key battle in which traditions in Ireland are based on both sides."

Orange Order members from the Shankill area in Belfast attended the project's official launch, which was carried out by Irish Foreign Minister Dermot Ahern.


19 May 2005

Irelandclick.com

Residents petitioned nurse killer to leave

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A young Poleglass mother who organised a petition to have a West Belfast man who was this week found guilty of murdering a nurse in the Channel Islands moved out of the estate, says a “chill went down the spine” of everyone living in Poleglass when they heard about the killing.

Paul Greenan embarked on a reign of terror in Poleglass before people power finally forced him out. However, in March last year the law finally caught up with the 19-year-old – who was described in court by his defence team as a psychopath – when he murdered nurse Tracey Burns in Jersey.

Neighbours’ fear of local killer

Close shave: residents mobilised to get psycho thrown out after knife horror

A mother-of-four who organised a 119-signature petition to have a future killer moved out of a West Belfast estate has expressed relief that he is now behind bars.

In 2003 Cathy Randal knocked on her neighbours’ doors in Poleglass collecting names of residents demanding that Paul ‘Dusty’ Greenan move out of the area.

In a Jersey court on Monday, 19-year-old Greenan was found guilty of the brutal March 2004 murder of nurse Tracey Burns on the island.
When Mrs Randal heard about the killing she says a “chill went down the spine of everyone living in Poleglass”.

The teenage murderer lived in Poleglass until his 17th birthday, and for some time before he fled he had conducted a reign of terror in the area. In one frightening incident he held a knife to a young mother’s throat and threatened to kill her. Greenan was responsible for numerous attacks, thefts and arson incidents throughout Poleglass.

Speaking to the Andersonstown News Cathy Randal said Greenan had the entire estate terrorised.

“He threatened people with knives, he murdered residents’ pets, he smashed windows, committed burglaries and stole cars,” recalled the young mum.

“He was a walking crime wave and I am convinced that if he had remained in Belfast he would have murdered someone in the city.

“I had a couple of confrontations with him. He pulled a knife on my best friend, I guess given what happened later she is lucky to be alive.”
During his adolescent years in Belfast, Greenan was convicted of 21 criminal offences and received 14 suspended jail terms.

His convictions ranged from assault to theft and arson.

In 2003, fed-up with having a one-man crime-wave in their midst, residents of the Poleglass estate marched on Greenan’s Glenkeen home with a 119-signature petition calling on the family to move out of the area.
A short time later Greenan and his mother relocated to the Whitewell district of North Belfast. The family said they were being intimidated by the IRA, a claim denied by republicans and Poleglass residents.

Former neighbour Cathy explained that the only people who wanted Greenan out of West Belfast were his neighbours.

She said, “More than 100 people signed a petition asking them to move. We also put our case to the Housing Executive telling them that if Greenan stayed in the area, 119 decent, law-abiding people would be demanding a move to a different area.”

Within months of relocating to North Belfast, Greenan burned down a flat in Fairyknowe Park.

It was after this incident that he moved to Jersey to spend time with his father.

The West Belfast teenager had been living on the island for less than three months before he killed Tracey Burns.

Throughout his five-day trial Greenan’s defence team claimed he was a psychopath and could not be held fully responsible for his actions.
In late 2003 he had attended a psychiatric hospital in Co Antrim after a failed attempt to hang himself.

Greenan’s attack on Tracey Burns was so severe that he left imprints of his boots on her face. He also attempted to rape the nurse, before stealing her mobile phone and purse after killing her.

In a letter to his mother while on remand for the murder Greenan admitted killing Ms Burns.

He wrote: “I am a low-life murderer and a dirty, stinking rapist.”
The teenage killer will be sentenced on July 7.

Journalist:: Ciaran Barnes

IrishExaminer.com

Fury over McDowell’s asylum seeker remarks

19 May 2005
By Cormac O’Keeffe

JUSTICE MINISTER Michael McDowell was strongly criticised yesterday for saying asylum seekers invented “cock and bull” stories to stay in the country.
Mr McDowell told the Oireachtas Justice Committee the patience of the Irish people would be tested if they knew the “cock and bull” stories being given by people looking for asylum.

He said these included that they thought they had arrived in Canada, or they faced ritual sacrifice in their home country.

“I would prefer to interview these people at the airport, but the UN insists that I go through due procedure,” Mr McDowell said.

He said there was “a lot of political correctness that goes on here and it is manifestly bogus, far-fetched nonsense and it’s about time we said it”.

Representative groups said the comments were “inflammatory”.

Héilean Rosenstock-Armie of the Irish Refugee Council said: “The language used is inflammatory and perpetuates the stereotype that all asylum seekers are bogus, which is a word we don’t like to use”.

She said that just because people were not granted refugee status did not mean they were ‘bogus’ or had no grounds to stay in the country on grounds of humanitarian protection.

Ms Rosenstock-Armie said the minister talked about due process and judicial review as if they were a waste of time. “I’m horrified that a barrister is saying this. He’s assuming that some people are entitled to due process and fair procedures but others are not.”

Rosanna Flynn of Residents Against Racism said: “That man should be relieved of his position if that is how he is thinking.”

She said he was casting all asylum seekers in the same, negative, light and that this had knock-on effects for racism.

“He’s saying things like ritual sacrifices don’t happen. They do happen.”

Labour Party justice spokesman Joe Costello said the minister should keep an open mind “because there are a lot of people around the world living in a position of great fear of persecution”.

AP Wire

Adams hopes IRA abandons armed struggle

ED JOHNSON
Associated Press
Posted on Thu, May. 19, 2005

LONDON - Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams said Thursday he remains hopeful that the Irish Republican Army will abandon its armed struggle, clearing the way for the power-sharing administration that was the goal of a peace accord signed seven years ago.

"There is an alternative way forward," Adams told The Associated Press before meeting with Prime Minister Tony Blair. "Whatever justification there was for armed actions in the past ... the existence of an alternative now means that everyone should embrace that, should embrace democratic and political means of struggle."

Blair met Northern Ireland's hard-line Protestant and Catholic leaders separately - the first such meetings since the May 5 general election - in the hope of reviving a stalled power-sharing agreement.

Adams said he would call on Blair to "make it very, very clear there is no way forward except the (U.S.-brokered 1998) Good Friday agreement."

But Ian Paisley of the Democratic Unionists, speaking as he left Blair's Downing Street office following an hour-long meeting, said he did not believe the IRA would ever change. Sinn Fein leaders should be excluded from power because they "cling to violence," Paisley said, declaring the Good Friday accord dead.

"I think it should be given a reasonable burial. It has failed," said Paisley, 79.

Sinn Fein, the IRA-linked party, and the Democratic Unionists, who represent most of Northern Ireland's British Protestant majority, trounced their moderate rivals in elections earlier this month.

Their dominant positions make them essential in any future power-sharing administration, the central goal of the Good Friday accord. But the Democratic Unionists refuse to cooperate with Sinn Fein until the IRA disarms and disbands, a position backed by the British, Irish and American governments.

Adams, 56, a reputed IRA commander for the past three decades, appealed officially to IRA members last month to abandon what he called their "armed struggle."

The seven-man IRA command - which, according to the Irish government, includes Adams and Sinn Fein colleagues Martin McGuinness and Martin Ferris - has yet to respond.

Adams, who denies ever being a member of the IRA, said Thursday there was "no time scale" for a response.

"That is a matter for that organization," he said. "I have set out my position. I am not going to move from it. It is my hope that Republicans right across the island and elsewhere will embrace that position."

The IRA was supposed to have disarmed fully by mid-2000 under terms of the 1998 pact but did not start the process until October 2001 and insisted that any weapons handovers be kept private and vague. That policy fueled Protestant support for Paisley, whose party rejected the 1998 deal as too generous to the Sinn Fein-IRA movement.

So far, power-sharing has proved impossible to sustain. A four-party coalition led by moderates governed the British territory in sporadic bursts from December 1999 to October 2002, but it suffered repeated breakdowns because of the IRA's refusal to start disarming.

It collapsed after police accused Sinn Fein activists of gathering intelligence on potential IRA targets.

The IRA has observed a cease-fire since 1997, but police say the group remains active of some fronts, particularly crime. In particular, the group has been widely blamed for a world-record Belfast bank robbery in December.

Sinn Féin

Ground rents are a hangover from the days of British colonial rule in Ireland and should be abolished

Published: 19 May, 2005

Sinn Féin Housing spokesperson, Arthur Morgan TD has called for the abolition of ground rents. Deputy Morgan described ground rents a "an ongoing injustice" and "a hangover from the days of British colonial rule in Ireland".

Speaking in the Dáil today on the Landlord and Tenants (Ground Rents) Bill he said, "Sinn Féin has reiterated our demand for the abolition of ground rents on many occasions in this House and indeed set out our stall on this issue in our submission on property rights to the Oireachtas All-Party Committee on the Constitution."

"Ground rents represent an ongoing injustice against the people of this state and are a feudal tax, a hangover from the days of British colonial rule in Ireland, and their abolition must be facilitated. Ground rent landlords do not need to be compensated in the event of their abolition. As a legacy of colonialism, ground rents have been unjust from the start. Therefore, to compensate would legitimise what is manifestly unjust. It is to the shame of consecutive governments that over 80 years of self-rule in the 26 counties has not seen this issue dealt with.

"Householders whose leases are about to expire are placed in an unacceptable position whereby they are forced to choose between buying a freehold on their house for one eighth of its value or signing a new lease for a drastically increased rent. With the value of houses going up, people whose leases are due to expire are justifiably angry and concerned. The alternative for those who cannot afford to buy out the expired lease is to sign a renewal of the lease for 35 years.

"The formula for the new ground rent per annum is computed on the basis of the open market rental value of the house. Many of those who find themselves in this invidious position are elderly and have no income other than their pension. They spend their remaining days in fear, yet the Government says there is nothing it can do.

"Various Government Minister have given the excuse of possible constitutional difficulties as a reason for long fingering this long overdue legislation. I would call on the Government to bring forward legislation now and allow it to be tested in the Supreme Court as was done with Part V of the Planning and Development Act 2002. If it is unconstitutional we can then proceed to a constitutional referendum to allow for such legislation. Sinn Féin will continue to hound the Government until the abolition of ground rents is realised and subjection of citizens of this state to unjust tyranny from ground rent landlords is at an end." ENDS

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